Life Changes - my next step in higher ed! - Terri Givens
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Life Changes – my next step in higher ed!

Life Changes – my next step in higher ed!

There are times in life when one needs to take a leap – and I am ready for the next step in my career! As I will be discussing in my next column in Inside Higher Ed (watch for it later this week), I will be stepping down from my position as Provost at Menlo College as of June 30th and will be pursuing a career outside of academia, although not outside of higher ed. In fact, my new career will allow me to work on issues beyond higher ed, for example, to bring my experience to understanding the factors that impact the pipeline from K-12 to higher ed. This is an important issue for college recruitment and admissions as well as college access. I won’t repeat what is already in the article, but I want to emphasize the passion I have for working on change in higher ed, and promoting college access.

The demographics of our country are changing, and small, private colleges are playing a greater role in educating students from low income and minority backgrounds. Colleges like Menlo College have become majority minority and are working hard to support the students that are attracted to the small class size and community feel of the residential college environment. Diversity isn’t necessarily something we have to work for in higher ed, at least in a state like California, it’s already here, but we have to make sure we are providing the environment and resources that will allow all students to succeed.

Retention and graduation rates needs to improve at the same time that colleges are under pressure to show that students are learning what we say they are learning. That means a greater focus on data and assessment. There’s no one size fits all solution, and change can’t happen overnight. We need to draw on best practices and ensure that faculty are included every step of the way. There’s plenty of work to do to ensure that we can serve the needs of students and provide the resources for faculty and staff to do their best work. Choosing the right tools, avoiding quick fixes, and determining the appropriate KPIs in a cost efficient context is critical for many institutions that are struggling to maintain enrollment in a challenging environment.

One of the critical areas I plan to focus on is faculty development. Many schools have taken on initiatives around innovation in teaching, but it is clear that in an era of declining enrollment, particularly for small, private colleges, we will need to do more. I was writing about these issues years ago in my Inside Higher Ed column as MOOCs were in the headlines, but both as a faculty member and as an administrator, I came to realize that the demands on faculty often leave little time for innovation in teaching. We need to ensure that we develop strategies that allow teaching to be a priority and reward faculty for doing the work that leads to innovations in curriculum and the new programs that our students need and are asking for. Understanding the changing workplace and developing feedback loops so that we can understand student and employer needs doesn’t mean we have to give up on the basics around critical thinking and a liberal arts education (I’ll have more to say on that later…).

I look forward to being able to use my broad range of experience to provide strategic advice and act as a bridge between the ed tech companies that are helping provide the tools and the institutions that are working towards a future that will lead to greater access to education for all. I know that I have a great deal to offer with my expertise as a first generation college-goer, faculty member, administrator, entrepreneur and researcher. Please check out my new website (www.terrigivens.com) and be in touch!

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About Terri E. Givens

Terri E. Givens is a consultant and Professor of Political Science. She was Provost and Professor at Menlo College in the San Francisco Bay Area from July 2015 to June of 2018. From the Fall of 2003 until the Spring of 2015 she was a Professor in the Government Department at the University of Texas at Austin where she also served as Vice Provost for International Activities and Undergraduate Curriculum from 2006 to 2009, Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center’s European Union Center of Excellence, and Co-Director of the Longhorn Scholars Program.  She directed the Center for European Studies and the France-UT Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies from 2004-2006. Her faculty appointments included the LBJ School of Public Affairs, European Studies, and she was affiliated with the Center for Women and Gender Studies, Center for African and African-American Studies and was a Fellow in the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Law and Security. She was a faculty member in the Political Science Department at the University of Washington from 1999 to 2003. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her B.A. from Stanford University. Her academic interests include radical right parties, immigration politics, and the politics of race in Europe.  She has conducted extensive research in the European Union, particularly in France, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Britain. She is the author/editor of several books on immigration policy, European politics and security, including Voting Radical Right in Western Europe, Immigration Policy and Security and Immigrant Politics: Race and Representation in Western Europe. Her most recent book is Legislating Equality: The Politics of Antidiscrimination Policy in Europe (Oxford University Press, May 2014).

Terri is active in the community and has been on a number of nonprofit boards, including KLRU, public television, the Trail Foundation, the Mayor’s Health and Fitness Council in Austin, TX, the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula and Fit Kids in the Bay Area. She has supported many health-related organizations, and started Take Back the Trail to promote fitness for women in East Austin. She is the proud mother of two very active teenagers, and although she is no longer a soccer mom, she is happy to see her boys following in her footsteps in high school track and field.